Desperate Searches

August 1, 2013
Siblings Muriel, 32, Brandi, 31, and Les, 34, have been living a mystery. They haven’t seen their mother, Brenda, in 31 years, have no idea if she’s dead or alive and only know what they say their father told them: their mother abandoned them. Muriel recently contacted Troy Dunn, star of The Locator, to help with their desperate search. After more than three decades, the siblings reunite with their mother. Will they get the answers they’ve been yearning for? Did Brenda abandon her children, or was something more sinister at play? This program contains strong sexual content. Viewer discretion advised.







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Troy DunnMurielLesBrandiThe siblings as kidsBrenda as they last remember herBrenda nowKathleenTawnyaAndy

Searching for Answers

Muriel hasn't seen her mother, Brenda, since she was 2 years old, and she contacted Troy Dunn to help locate her. The two meet, and Troy asks Muriel, "Can you tell me how you came to be separated from your mom?"

"My dad was real abusive, and he always told us that she had run off. There are stories that she was beat up and left for dead, and then he took us to California," Muriel shares. She reveals that she and her siblings were also abused by their father. "Besides the physical abuse, when my dad would bring his friends over, it wasn’t for them to hang out. It was for him to sit and watch them sexually abuse us, while I begged and cried to him to make them stop, and he didn’t," she says, adding that the abuse started when she was 3 or 4. "I would have to sit and watch porn, at 8 years old try to do my best to do what they’ve done. I thought it was my fault, and he would sit and tell people I sexually provoked them and so I deserved it."

Troy asks, "Is it your opinion that your mother left you and the kids, or is it your opinion that your father took you away from your mother?"

"I want to believe that he took us away," Muriel replies. If she had a chance to speak with her mother, she says, "I’d like to know why she never tried to find us. Did she ever love us? Did she ever think about us? But, she never tried to find us, so maybe, she didn’t want us."

Muriel tells Dr. Phil, “I don’t remember my mother. I have no memory of her at all.” She adds that she always wondered how her mother could leave knowing their father was abusive.


"If you have these feelings about your mother, why are you looking for her now?"

A Grim Childhood

Brandi and Les say they also suffered horrific abuse at the hands of their father, Ralph. They want to know why their mother abandoned them but admit they have mixed feelings about meeting Brenda.

"As a little girl, my dad would allow his friends to sexually abuse us, to the point that I didn’t know if I was going to be able to have children of my own," Brandi says. "
I don’t know what kind of mother would allow her children to be taken by somebody as horrible as my father was. I do not consider Brenda to be my mother. She doesn’t deserve to have children."

"My father would literally punch me — we’re talking full-grown man punches to a little boy," Les says, noting that he was hit with brooms, beer bottles and blocks of wood. "When I was 7, I was shoved out of the car. I was on the outside of the truck holding on, while he was driving down a dirt road — scared to death — and he didn’t stop."

Les says he has thought about how it would be if he met his mother. "The fantasy doesn’t go past her first words, because I can’t imagine what she would say that would make 32 years, without ever trying to make contact with her children, OK," he says. "In my mind, the way I’ve rectified the situation is she can’t, because she’s dead. I’d rather her be alive, and I’d rather have answers. It may not fill that hole, but it will at least go a ways toward healing."

Dr. Phil asks Les, “What is your theory about what happened?”

“He took us away,” he says.

Brandi shares her thoughts. “As an adult, I don’t think about her,” she says. “From my standing, we did not have a mother. We took care of ourselves. We had a very abusive father, and we have no mother. We had somebody who gave birth to us, and that’s where it ends.”

Two of the siblings older half-sisters, Kathleen and Tawnya, join show. They share memories of their step-mother, Brenda, and what they witnessed by their father.


Why does Kathleen blame herself for her siblings’ abuse?


A Long-Awaited Reunion

“Your mother is alive,” Dr. Phil tells the siblings, adding that she is in the building.

“I’m happy to know that,” Muriel says. “I’m excited to hopefully, finally, meet her."

Brandi says she has mixed feelings. “If she knew he was that abusive because he did it to her, why would she allow her children to be taken and not try to stop it?” she asks.

Dr. Phil asks the siblings if they want to meet their mother. “There are conditions,” he says. “Condition number one is you have to be willing to hear what she has to say. You don’t have to believe it. You don’t have to agree with it. And you have to be willing to say what you really feel, because if we’re not going to get real about it, let’s not even bother to do it.”

Muriel, Brandi and Les agree to meet Brenda.


For the first time in three decades, Muriel, Les and Brandi see their mother.

“Ralph was the complete boss, and if it didn’t go Ralph’s way, I paid the price.”


The siblings say they had an older brother. Why was he the only one whom Brenda took with her? And, what questions do the three have for their mother?



What Does the Future Hold?

Can this family find forgiveness? Dr. Phil offers them advice on moving forward and creating new relationships.


“Damaged people can heal one another and become whole again.”


An Important Assignment for the Family

Dr. Phil arranges for the family to have lunch together to get to know each other. "What I really want you to do when you sit down for this lunch, each one of you tell the other what your hope and dream is for this family going forward. I think it’s important that you have a vision. I think it’s important that you set a goal, and it might be a small goal in the beginning, and it might grow across time," he explains. "That way, everybody kind of knows what the expectations are. Don’t judge it, just accept it, just hear it, and if it’s very cautious at first, that’s OK. Go with that. And if some of you want to move faster than others, that’s OK too. But it’s good to talk about those things, and not just with mom back in the picture, with each other."